LOS ANGELES — Bernard Hopkins made history when he outpointed Jean Pascal to became the oldest boxing champion ever in May. Perhaps he should have left it at that.
The 46-year-old light heavyweight champ had nothing more to prove and no better way to end his amazing 23-year career.
Instead, Hopkins took on Chad Dawson and now the final bout of his hall-of-fame career might be a second-round technical knockout loss by way of hip toss.
That’s right. The RING and WBC light heavyweight titles changed hands on a hip toss. Not a punch to the jaw. Not a body shot. A hip toss, a shoulder shove.
Needless to say, it wasn’t the way either fighter or the 8,431 fans in attendance wanted the fight to end and it certainly wasn’t a satisfying ending to the HBO Pay-Per-View event that took place at Staples Center.
After losing the opening round to Dawson, who landed a head-snapping left cross before the bell, Hopkins missed with a lead right and lunged forward onto the 29-year-old southpaw’s back toward the end of the second round.
Dawson (31-1, 18 knockouts) casually shoved Hopkins off with his shoulder and the veteran landed onto his left side on the ring apron. Hopkins writhed in agony on his back, claiming that he injured his left shoulder. Referee Pat Russell had a few words with Hopkins and within a few minutes waved the bout off at 2:48 of round.
Hopkins, believing he was intentionally fouled by Dawson, thought he would have five minutes to recover. He did not. Russell did not view Dawson’s shove as foul.
“It was not a foul. It’s a TKO,” the veteran official said. “(Hopkins) could not continue because of an injury.”
Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KOs), of course, disagrees with that call.
“That was a blatant foul,” he said. “It should be a No-Contest.
“(Russell) asked if I could continue fighting and I said ‘Yes, I will continue with one arm. I’m ready.’ Then he called the fight off. He just walked away. He never explained to me that (if I couldn’t continue) he would disqualify me, that it would be over.”
However, it was over, not by DQ, but by stoppage. Dawson viewed Hopkins failure to immediately get up as a submission.
“Hopkins ran from me for three years,” he said. “I knew he didn’t want the fight. He keeps talking about being from Philly and being a gangster. He’s not a gangster. Gangsters don’t quit. He’s weak, physically and mentally. I was going to get on him and he knew it.”
Hopkins agrees that Dawson planned to get on him, but he says the three-time titleholder wasn’t going to do it within the rules of the sport.
“He wanted to rough me up with dirty tactics,” Hopkins maintained. “They knew that was the only way to beat me. He knew he wasn’t in with a 46 year old, because I was faster than him. I didn’t want the fight to go this way.”
Nobody did. The crowd quickly went from chanting “Bad Chad!” and “B-Hop!” in the first round to “Bulls__t!” less than six minutes later.
Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Hopkins, said the Los Angeles-based company will file protests with the California State Athletic Commission and the WBC.
If the commission overturns the decision it would not be the first time they have changed the official result of a high-profile bout in recent years. Technical knockout victories scored by Timothy Bradley (against Nate Campbell) and James Toney (against Hasim Rahman) were later changed to No-Contests upon further review by the commission.
However, even if the loss is erased from Hopkins’ record it won’t change the truth of the matter: that despite his uncommon technique and tenacity, Hopkins is getting too old for this rough sport.
Eleven years ago Hopkins was body slammed hard to the canvas during his rematch with wild slugger Antwun Echols. The blatant hip toss dislocated his left shoulder. However, Hopkins continued and wore Echols down to a 10th-round TKO just using his right hand.
Hopkins says he wanted to do the same thing against Dawson, and maybe he did, but what was his body telling him? Recent evidence — his severe reactions to foul punches during his loss to Joe Calzaghe and rematch with Roy Jones Jr., and the knockdowns suffered against Pascal in their first fight — suggest that it might be time to seriously consider retirement.
This is a young man’s sport. If there’s talk of a rematch, let it be of Dawson-Pascal II. Which is not to say that Hopkins couldn’t perform better in a rematch with Dawson. He certainly did in his rematch with Pascal.
Hopkins is correct when he refers to himself as a “young 46 year old.” He can still beat a lot of world-class fighters half his age, but does he really need to risk his health or that razor sharp mind of his?
Hopkins would make an excellent TV commentator. He can be an active partner with Golden Boy Promotions and help the company expand to his old stomping grounds on the East Coast. He can do anything he puts his mind to.
And if he quits now, he will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame as a “young 51 year old.
Photos by Naoki Fukuda